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by Harry Shackleton 1st July, 2016
3 min read

Brexit – Where do we go from here?

We have seen near unprecedented political turmoil in the days since the shock outcome of the EU referendum. Within hours, David Cameron had stood down and triggered an internal Conservative leadership contest. He has left his successor, to be decided by the 9th September, with a poisoned chalice by failing to immediately trigger Article 50, the provision in the Lisbon Treaty that starts the exit process, having previously agreed to do so.

This responsibility will now fall to one of the selection of candidates vying to be the next Prime Minister. Yesterday we were shocked following the decision of Boris Johnson not to throw his cap in the leadership ring after his Leave campaign ally, Michael Gove, put forward his candidacy by declaring Boris could not provide the necessary leadership. With nominations now closed, Stephen Crabb, Theresa May, Andrea Leadsom, Liam Fox and Michael Gove will be the candidates.

Once installed as Prime Minister the winner will face the challenge of trying to ensure the United Kingdom has the best access to the European market while placating many of those who voted to leave the EU based on a promise of increased controls over immigration. Securing both will be a monumental task and rhetoric from the continent suggests compromises will have to be made by the UK on free movement if single market access is to be granted.

In policy terms, Mr Cameron has been keen to reassure Westminster and Whitehall that it’s business as usual and that the legislative agenda will continue as planned. Despite this it is clear that he is now a dead duck Prime Minister. Important legislation is likely to be shelved with other legislation seeing a slowed timeline until a new Prime Minister takes over.

There is a wider question as to what will happen to much of the legislation we already have in place. Irrespective of the model adopted by the UK, there will no longer be a requirement to apply EU legislation in most – if not all – cases. That said, much of EU law has made its way into the UK’s primary legislation and as such will remain in place unless action is taken to amend or repeal it. Unless transferred into UK law other EU laws will simply fall away once the UK withdraws from the EU. There are also a large number of statutory instruments that will cease to apply, again unless they are transposed into UK law.

It is clear that the UK will have to carry out an intricate review of EU laws and EU-derived laws to determine which should be retained, which amended or repealed. Much of this will clearly depend on the outcome of negotiation with the EU during exit negotiations and the deal secured. As this process takes place, Government is likely to seek to hear the views of those in key industries and it seems certain that there will be opportunities to feed in to the process of redefining much of our legislation. Strategic engagement with Government may well be more important in the next two year than it has been for a generation.

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